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No relief from high school fees this year

Looks like parents still have to wait a while before a new Act comes in place preventing schools from riding roughshod over them in the matter of fee hikes. The much awaited school fee regulation Act, though passed by the state legislature last year, is now stuck in limbo, as two union ministries reviewing it have sought clarifications on certain aspects.


In limbo: Last year, Dr Vivek Korde, president of Forum Against Commercialization of Education, went on an indefinite hunger strike to press for the demand of immediate implementation of school fee regulation Act. File pic

The Act, once implemented, will limit the fee hikes imposed on parents by schools to one every two years. It was passed by the state legislature in August last year, and then forwarded for approval to the President of India. As part of this process, the draft of the Act was also forwarded to various government ministries for comment. Two months ago, two union ministries — Law and Justice and Human Resource Development – sent letters to the state government with some queries on the Act, a senior state government official revealed. These developments have caused the law to lapse into a state of limbo. The official added that it was unlikely the Act would come into effect in time for the new academic session, which will take off in a few weeks.

The Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Collection of Fees) Act, 2011 was passed by the state legislature unanimously after a 27-member joint select committee, comprising members from both ruling and Opposition parties, approved of the draft.

What the Act says
As per the provisions of the Act, educational institutes will be able to hike fees only once every two years. The Act also makes it mandatory for the schools to form Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) and discuss the proposed fee structure before a hike. Only after the PTA approval will the school be able to increase the fees.

Once the law comes into effect, a two-tier structure will be instituted, including a divisional fee regulatory committee and a state level review committee. Both will consider the fee hike proposals, before giving their approval. The committees will be empowered to take action against any school that violates the provisions of the Act. After verification of the complaint, the divisional committees can slap fines ranging from Rs 1-5 lakh on the errant schools, or even send the straying individual to jail for three years.

The state minister for Education, Rajendra Darda, said, “The Education Secretary, who is in Delhi at the moment, would be in a better position to provide details about the status of the bill. I would be able to provide you a clearer picture tomorrow.”

Futile protest?
The unrest over the erratic fee hikes effected by schools gathered steam last year, when angst-ridden parents joined hands with teachers activists and protest groups like Forum Against Commercialization of Education (FACE) and went on an indefinite hunger strike at Azad Maidan. Officials from the education department met the protesters invited them to meet the education minister. The strike was called off when the protestors were given assurances that the Act would be passed soon.

Voices
The bill has been prepared by the state government, but unless it is signed by the President, it cannot be implemented. It is the state government’s duty to follow up with the President and take her signature as soon as possible. Because of this delay, many schools that hiked their fees last year have increased it this year as well.
Jayant Jain, president, All India Federation of PTA

It is our state government’s duty to keep tabs on the movement of the bill and follow it up with the President.
Arundhati Chavhan, president, PTA United Forum

The bill in its final form was ready in 2011, after many rectifications were made according to suggestions that came to the state government. Though the present education minister is keen on implementing the bill, it seems the department authorised to follow up with the President is working slowly to enforce its implementation.
Dr Deven Naik, president, Forum against Commercialization of Education

Even if it is implemented, I don’t think the rules will be followed by any school religiously.
Sanjay Jadhav, member, Forum For Fairness in Education

Maybe some internal political issue is responsible for the delay in implementation. Maybe the president is busy with her foreign tours.”
Sajid Momeen, parent

— Kranti Vibhute

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